Wouldn’t it be great if…
This, the theme of the night, was only one of the many incredibly inspiring pieces of this gala. The performances and speeches throughout the evening were phenomenal and very touching. The Joyful Heart Foundation was founded in 2004 by Mariska Hargitay in response to the overwhelming outreach she received after taking the role of Olivia Benson on Law and Order: Special Victims Unit from survivors of Domestic Violence, Sexual Assault, and Child Abuse. The mission of this organization is not only to bring an end to these types of violence but to also transform the way society responds to survivors and support their healing.
I have been doing this type of work in one form or another for the past seven years. I began as a crisis counselor at a women’s resource center and am now a therapist working with these exact same issues. As someone who works day in and day out with trauma it was truly a blessing to be able to take in all the experiences of this gala. Yes, there were famous people galore, but there was nothing more poignant to me than Mariska’s speech.
She spoke while introducing Vice President Joe Biden about the two paths we can take with this work. A lot of times the people who work with violence and trauma gradually make attempts distance themselves from the pain that they bear witness to on a daily basis; however, there is another path. It is seen as the harder path, but, as Mariska explained, it can be the one that brings about the most change and support for the survivor. A path that puts you right in the trenches, little distance between you and the pain of the experience of the survivor beside you — this path of compassion can be difficult because it is a heavy one, but a necessary one at that.
I’ve spoken a little about the difficulties of holding boundaries for me when working with teens. I somewhat frequently find myself in the mama bear protector role which is a hard thing to manage. Lines blur and it can sometimes be many shades of grey. When I hear their stories and what they have experienced, at such young ages, it is really difficult to balance those roles, but I do my work with my heart. I am transparent and clear and real with these kids – and I take pride in that because it is not easy to balance all the roles that I play in their lives while being completely 100 all the time. I teach classes, I lead groups, I run an after school program, and I do therapy throughout the day. It is a lot and being able to stay real with them, even when it gets really tough — I keep them with me every step of the way and never take their voices out of the picture.
This gala last night, going to it was a dream come true. A literal dream of mine, but what I felt there and the way I left it – the feeling of fullness in my heart and the motivation to keep going down this path every day, I mean that is what it really means to have a joyful heart. It gave me a breath of rejuvenation that was totally and completely necessary as I move to closing out this school year.
Wouldn’t it be great if no child or adult had to suffer the pain of physical, sexual, mental, emotional, and verbal abuse?
Let’s change the way we look at these issues. Let’s start talking about it because enough is enough.
❤ E. Rodriguez